My Mother Had Alzheimer’s: Will I Get It Too?
by Ray Gregoire
For those of us who have seen loved ones become victims of Alzheimer’s, our greatest fear is getting this terrible disease. Currently, Alzheimer’s affects over 5,500,000 people in the United States and costs over $100 billion a year in care, with no cure.
A recent report from the Alzheimer’s Association states that one in three adults over 65 dies with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia.
The First Signs of Alzheimer’s
My first exposure to Alzheimer’s was when my mother started acting strangely. The signs were subtle, even humorous, at first. It was little things, like not following suit during a card game, but then it progressed fairly rapidly and became total confusion.
I remember driving my folks to the airport in Seattle for a flight back to Manchester, New Hampshire. The ticket-counter lady at United asked my mother where she was going. My mother just had a blank look and said, “I don’t know..." It was obvious to me that this was not a senior moment.
A month or so later, my mother was having her weekly hair appointment, which cost about fifteen dollars. She gave the lady one dollar and left the salon. The hairdresser called my dad and he paid her the correct amount, and at that point, my dad started agreeing with me that a true medical/mental problem really existed with my mother.
Her Disorientation Got Worse
As the disease progressed, my mother would run away from home. One time, the police found her banging on a stranger’s door several miles from home. Another time, she was found wandering in a cemetery that was even further away from home in a neighboring community.
She was soon admitted into a nursing home and did not talk or even open her eyes for six long years before dying, costing my dad $263,713.56.Yep, dad kept track to the penny. Today her nursing home care would cost north of half a million dollars and very little would be covered by Medicare. You need long-term care insurance.
Over the months, my mother got worse and worse, soon not recognizing either me or my father. After the first year, she closed her eyes and never opened them again for her last five years.
Alzheimer’s Research: Deep Brain Stimulation
Like me, many of us older boomers often open the fridge or go to the store and can’t remember what we wanted, and we are struck with the fear that this could be the beginning of Alzheimer’s.
At last, there might be a glimmer of hope due to a new study at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio, where Dr. Ali Rezai is doing research on deep brain stimulation (DBS). DBS is similar to a pacemaker, but the electrodes are implanted into the brain, not the heart. This technology has been used extensively (100,000 patients worldwide) to treat Parkinson’s disease.
The deep brain stimulation pacemaker will be implanted in ten patients for this preliminary study, however Dr. Rezai says the early results are promising. Let’s hope so because, as Boomers age, the incidence of Alzheimer’s is predicted to soar.
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